Instagram has 400 million monthly active users, and is one of the fastest growing social networks of all time. So when Instagram opened up their native ad platform to advertisers in September of last year, it caused quite a commotion in the online ad industry. Instagram marketing is still a hot topic: As of right now, it seems that there are businesses that have had great success with Instagram, and others that haven’t. Let’s explore if Instagram marketing could be a good fit for your business.
What Is Instagram Marketing?
Instagram ads are yet another version of native advertising, or ads that behave and look like native content. For Instagram, this means image and video ads that appear in user’s Instagram social feed.
Currently Instagram offers these types of ads that appear in a user's feed. These ads can all be liked, shared and commented on, just like any other image or video posted to Instagram.
Carousel: These are a set of images that that can be scrolled through in one post.
Image. These are the standard, one-image ads that look like most of the content published on Instagram.
Video. Instagram video ads are just a single, short video (up to 60 seconds) that can be played within the app.
The Potential Benefits and Hurdles of Instagram Marketing
There are a few benefits to Instagram marketing:
1. High engagement rates
Forrester reports that Instagram’s per-follower interaction rate was 2.3 percent in 2015, 10 times better than Facebook's per-follower interaction rate of .216 percent. Business-to-consumer brands that use Instagram see way more engagement on each post than Facebook or any other social network, according to TrackMaven's 2016 Social Media Impact Report.
2. Facebook Ad Platform
Since Facebook owns Instagram, you can create ads using Facebook. This may be helpful for a couple of reasons. For starters, if you’re already using Facebook advertising, then you can use the same interface to create Instagram ads. You’re also able to utilize Facebook’s targeting options as well. You can use fine-grained demographics to only show your ads to a very specific subset of people, which may help cut costs on ad spend.
But one thing you may want to consider when using Instagram ads (or any ad network, for that matter) is what will motivate users to click on your ad. Instagram users are regularly in discovery mode or passive mode. They probably aren’t using Instagram as a tool to find something specific, but rather to be entertained. If they click your ad, it may be out of curiosity. This means that the people seeing your ad may be different from those who are actively researching something, like someone coming from a Google search.
Also, if your brand doesn’t have a website that is optimized for mobile users, than Instagram marketing may not be for you. It’s a mobile social network, so getting users from mobile phones may be a waste of your money if your site doesn't translate well on mobile.
By and large, Instagram marketing may work well for businesses that want to turn cold prospects into warm leads. It can be much harder to make a sale from an Instagram ad to a cold prospect, but Instagram ads are great at bringing awareness to your brand by gaining followers and spreading brand recognition.
This is part of the process of turning cold leads into warm leads who will then be more likely to sign up for your newsletter, or even buy products from you later on.
Let’s look at a hypothetical example of how using Instagram marketing may help make the most of your ad spend.
A Sample Instagram Ad Campaign
Let’s say you’re an online paint company. You might run a set of ads that show pictures of beautiful rooms before and after using your paint to people who have just bought houses, targeted by using Facebook’s deep targeting options. Your call to action might be to get people to visit your website to learn how to pick the best paint for their house.
If done well, this ad may get a lot of organic shares, comments and likes. It could spread organically, which can also help land you more followers. Not only that, but the people who click through to your website might sign up for your newsletter for tips on how to create beautiful spaces using your paint.
Now, this is a very simplistic example—I know next to nothing about the online paint industry. But the format is often used when creating ads for cold prospects on social networks.
Creating visually stunning images that provide value without asking for anything—at least not yet—may improve your Instagram ad's reach. Once a user has made the first step by clicking your ad, then you may want to consider asking a little bit more from them. In this example, you've asked them to join your online paint company's e-newsletter.
What the example didn’t do was go straight for the sale. Most people make the mistake of creating an ad that goes straight to a sales page. On social networks like Facebook and Instagram, this may be a poor way to build an ad because people may not be in research mode. They may be in discovery mode.
And therein lies one of the problems businesses have with advertising: They don’t understand the motivations of the people seeing their ad.
If you were creating Google ads for the term “buy online paint,” then you can think about sending people straight to a sales page. They’re already a warm prospect, because they landed on your site for a very specific purpose. The goal with Instagram marketing is to warm your audience to your brand. Business owners do this so that they can capitalize on possible organic shares and follows, and then gradually make the sale on the backend.
So, Are Instagram Ads Worth It?
If you have ad money to spend on turning cold prospects into warm leads, then Instagram marketing might work for you.There may be a learning curve as you're figuring out what works and what doesn’t, and you may have to use more creativity on Instagram than with other ad networks because Instagram is a creative platform. But if you send the message to the right audience, you may find that Instagram ads work really well for your company and may help build new followers and free brand awareness.
For more tips on using social media for your business, access our exclusive guide, The Right Content, Right Now: Navigating Social Media for Business.
Read more articles on advertising.